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What are Wire Nails?

Lori Kilchermann
Lori Kilchermann

Wire nails are ones that are cut and manufactured from a coil of wire. These are the most common nails used in construction as well as household projects around the world. A wire nail can be used as a fastener in almost every situation, from securing hardwood floors to common construction processes.

To produce these nails, wire is rolled into huge rolls and placed upon a machine. The wire is threaded into the machine and then is cut into predetermined lengths. Once the wire is cut to a predetermined length, the machine creates the head and point of the nail through a series of programs and the wire nails exit the machine and fall into a holding bin.

Man with a drill
Man with a drill

With the versatility in which wire nails can be produced, they can be used in almost every type of situation requiring a fastening. If the head is small, it can be a finishing nail, while larger versions can hold the two-by-fours of the framing of a wall.

Nails date as far back as the time of the Romans. Nails were mentioned in the Bible when discussing Solomon's Temple. Originally, they were made out of iron and cut from sheets. These cut nails, or square nails as they were called, were flat and square and quite brittle. Cut nails were made by hand around the world until the 19th century. After that, cut nails were largely machine made.

Manufactured square nails were replaced with wire nails due mainly to the speed at which wire nails can be manufactured. The machinery can be set for the length and type of nail desired, and then the quantity desired. The machine feeds the rolled wire into the dies where it is cut and shaped into the desired type of nail. Different types of nails can be manufactured by running different types of wire through the machine.

Wire nails can be manufactured with different types of glue applied to the nail's shaft. These glue types assist the nails in securing the materials together. Some nails have rings or barbs machined into the nail shaft to prevent the materials from pulling apart easily. Others that are often exposed to wet weather are covered with a galvanized coating to prevent them from rusting prematurely.

Wire nails are described by the metric length and width in most countries. A 25 millimeter long nail that is also 1.4 millimeters in diameter would be called a 25 x 1.4 nail (1 inch by 0.08 inches). In the United States, nails are sized by the penny with the letter d following the size such as a 20d nail denotes a 20 penny nail. The penny sizes reflect the number of nails that could be bought for a penny in England in the 15th century. The higher the penny size, the larger the nail. The d stands for denarius, which was a Roman coin much like a penny and was the abbreviation for penny in England prior to the decimal system.

Discussion Comments


@talentryto- I think that you also have to consider price. Once you find the nail with the right length and thickness for the materials you will be nailing, quality will matter. More expensive nails will provide better quality, which is important to any type of home improvement project.


@talentryto- First of all, the type of wire nails you choose will depend on the type of project that you are planning to do. For example, if you will be nailing thick, wooden boards, you will need longer, sturdier nails. If you are planning to put up drywall, shorter, thinner nails will work best.

There is a type of wire nail available for any project, you just have to understand which ones are good to use for particular types of projects. For the convenience of consumers, the nail packages are usually marked for specific uses, such as carpentry nails or wall nails. When you shop for wire nails at your local home improvement store, you may find the many options available to be confusing. When in doubt, all you have to do is ask a sales representative to help you find the best wire nails for your project.


I'm looking for the best type of wire nails for a home improvement project. What do I need to look for to find the type that will work best for me?

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    • Man with a drill
      Man with a drill